Big Names in Oregon Pinot... Really??

In the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to try two of the biggest names in Oregon pinot and both experiences have left me with a big question mark. The wines in question were Beaux Freres, Beaux Freres Vineyard and Domaine Drouhin Laurene - both where 2000. Expecting a ‘next best thing after Burgundy’ experience with high acid and maybe some floral or herbal qualities, I was very surprised to find a fairly masculine wine with not much acid in both cases.

So I have to ask: Is this what you get when you shell-out big money in Oregon - RRV/Sonoma Coast pinot?? [scratch.gif]

I’m no expert but I don’t think many Oregon fans would name those two as examples what they like about Oregon.

I would recommend trying things like Thomas and Belle Pente if you are looking for “burgundian style”.

Beaux Freres and DDO tend to be on the big side, at least until after age 10.

I’m with Cris in that there are at least a few dozen Oregon wines I’d go to before Beaux Freres for what you’re looking for, but even within that universe I think you’ll find them fat compared to Burgundy, at least until about age 12. The New World pinot region that’s most Burgundian in build is not in America, but New Zealand.

I guess the real question in my head is WHY??? Why plant in a generally cool climate and then try to make a ripe wine? Have they not heard of a little area in California called the Russian River Valley?

You’re correct. Unfortunately, BF and DS seem to get all the press, and it may be a function of their pricing. All I know is that I wouldn’t buy either one of them.

That’s good to know. I’ll avoid Kiwi Pinots! [tease.gif]

the 00 BF is still a very young wine. it might have benefited from a longer decant and a indoor taste away from the triple digit heat. that being said it is not a Burgundian style and certainly not feminine.

think robust power and not elegance.

Glenn, I meant no disrespect to your generosity last weekend - I feel very fortunate to have now tried some of the big names in Oregon. But after trying the DD last night, it got me thinking about how similar those two wines were - in addition to being nothing like what I expected considering the origin.

BTW - we missed you last night. We had some great wines - including a ringer that fooled everyone! See notes here: TN: TN: Burgundy vs. U.S Pinot Noir blind a dozen others!!! - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers" onclick=";return false;

I think DDO Laurene has quite a bit more finesse than Beaux Freres, but I’d go for Cameron (at half the price or less) before either.

none taken Mike. having had this wine in a lot of vintages since the mid-90’s i think it is misunderstood and often fails to meet varietal expectations. i brought it that day as it is powerful enough to stand tall within a line-up and has a certain cerebral aspect b/c of bloodlines but it certainly isn’t elegant PN.

thought it might be one PN to go with the grilled steak theme too?

It definitely went well with the red meat orgy!

The DDO lineup is quite unusual for Oregon. They have the three wines from their vineyard: First is the Willamette Valley, which often has off site fruit blended in. The next two, the Laurene and the Louise, are barrel selections only from the main vineyard. Neither one of these wines would be considered real burgundian.

The Louise is the biggest and most long lived of the two. IMO, it needs about 5 years to even be approachable and is often best at least 10+ years out. Small production, huge wine. I believe most of these wines will easily go for 20+ years and develop into incredible wines.

The Laurene, as stated, is also a barrel selection wine, but with fairly significant production. This wine shows vintage much more than the Louise, and is highly variable in taste and quality from year to year. Typically, this wine needs a couple years in the bottle, as a minimum, to sort itself out. It is also a long lived wine , and takes on different nuances with age (10+ years).

I personally like the BF, BF vineyard along with its sister the Upper Terrace. Both are fairly expensive, but they are very true to their Ribbon Ridge heritage.

One of the interesting tastings is the DDO and /or a Domaine Serene, both from the Red Hills of Dundee as compared to the BF of Ribbon Ridge. The differences in terrior will always stand out year in and year out. Both great AVAs( the two best in Oregon, imo) with very distinctive traits.

Finding gold mines in MO is easier than finding a Thomas. Incredible wine, but extremely hard to get if you weren’t on the list 10+ years ago.

So they can charge more $ [stirthepothal.gif]

These are 2 producer I do not buy, although I think if you went through the DDO line up you would find some nice wines.


Sorry I did not see this thread earlier today, or I would have replied at length. For now the short version until tomorrow finds my computer and I in the same spot. Briefly - BF and DDO are indeed 2 well recognized brands from our beautiful valley, and perhaps recieve more than thier fair share of press. However they are far from the benchmark for Oregon Pinot Noir. I am a native Oregonian and one of the things I love most around is our ability to accept, appreciate and honor differences.
Now, in regards to someone that asked why we would plant in a marginal area and not CA. It is who we are, how we are raised and quite frankly, we are proud of the work we do in the vineyards, the heart and soul we put into our wines. Oregon is one of the things that makes Pinot so special - take some time, research, get to know the wines (other than the big names) explore, play, have fun - meet the cast of actors - believe me if you knew us, you just might like us for what we are - Passionate !
Try the road less traveled and you will find jewels amongs the red juice.
More tomorrow

This subject actually came up last night in a tangential fashion over some lovely French bistro food and some lovelier French wines (in fairness, Rich brought them) with Rich and Joanne Trimpi. I realize this isn’t earth-shattering news but at the end of the day, making wine is a business and it does a winery owner no good to make wine in a style he or she likes if it doesn’t sell.

For better or worse, there is at least a perception (if not a reality) that wine in the “more of everything is better” style sells better, and that higher prices and the increased perceived value associated with them help the wine sell even faster. There is almost no question that such wines get higher scores from Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate, but what is one to expect when both publications have someone reviewing Oregon pinot noir and Australian shiraz? Tanzer and Burghound are a different story, but their audiences are much smaller.

It’s my belief (though I have no empirical proof) that some winemaking decisions are being driven by the desire to pander to this perceived preference for bigger, oakier, more “slutty” wines. One story that has circulated for years is that Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres has said on multiple occasions that he’d make his wine differently if he had a different brother-in-law and that speaks volumes to me.


You bring up a wonderful point. Would the WS, and its readers, be better served if one critic covered Pinots and Chards from (1) California, (2) Oregon, (3) Burgundy, &(4) New Zealand?

Would that be to much for one critic?

Would that possibly concentrate to much power and influence over those varietals in one person?

As to your comments about Mike Etzel’s remarks. As I remember the story, it was RWP’s money that saved Etzel’s ass and saved BF for him. Otherwise, he would now be a winemaker at someone else’s winery. That option is always open to him. His remarks may well be true, but when you beg money, and make a deal, with the devil, you live with those decisions. A lot of literature has been written on that issue.

That’s not a very accurate statement, Gordon. They purchased the property together. Now, if you say it was Robert Roy’s money that saved both of them you may be on to something.


There is alot to the BF story, and it is not a simple story. Your remarks are very well placed though.

What about my first comments in that thread? Your thoughts.

I had the 2000 BF earlier this year and found it to have plenty of acidity. Looking at the notes on the BF- well,they are all over the place. What i would say is that both wines need to be popped at the right time or they really need to be given a proper amount of air.
I love love love DD Laurene - (we’re doing a pretty extensive DD vertical in Chicago this fall-stay tuned.) Here are my notes from the BF- as I recall we popped and poured this but then we let it sit in glass for well over a hour. Check out Kdawg’s notes as well below- he drinks a fair amount of burgundy FWIW…" onclick=";return false;